Safari Monks: A Glimpse Of Wildlife Through Odisha-Born Abhilash Kar’s Lens

OB Bureau

Bhubaneswar: His eyes were always thirsty for a shade of green. Unlike a commoner, visits to gardens or parks couldn’t quench his thirst. His search over the horizon landed him in deep forests. And, in the lap of nature Abhilash Kar, a senior product manager by profession since 2015, discovered his passion for wildlife photography.

Pursuing this passion, along with his two friends, Abhilash launched a first-of-its-kind wildlife photo tour company in India in 2018. His firm, ‘Safari Monks’, primarily conducts experiential wildlife trips, bespoke safaris and photography workshops in the Indian sub-continent, Africa and Polar Europe regions.

Not a conventional vacation

“Safari Monks is different from other conventional tourism companies because it specialises only in wildlife adventures and tourism. Be it fixed date itineraries, customised group tours or bespoke safaris, every guest gets to pick his or her choice of a national park and we ensure they get the best experience of the safari. We manage the end-to-end logistics and entire back office. We lead the groups personally and impart our knowledge of wildlife photography, cultivated over decades, to our guests,” said Abhilash, who hails from Cuttack and is now based in Bengaluru. The guests are also taught post-processing aspects and get to learn both the art and science of wildlife photography. The skipper of the trip also teaches nuances of animal behaviour.

The journey of Safari Monks began on a trip to Kenya, where Abhilash had gone to visit his friend and business partner Tilak Nagraj. “The idea was conceived during a candid conversation,” added Abhilash, who also roped in his friend Kirti Ranjan Nayak into the project. So far, the trio has conducted more than 100 tours for guests from different parts of the country.

Clicking the wild

Photographing animals in their natural environment isn’t a cakewalk. While looking through the camera with fingers on the shutter, the enthusiast also needs to assess animal behaviour. For Abhilash, it isn’t very difficult because of his tryst with wildlife quite early in life. He was introduced to wildlife as a child by his maternal grandfather, who took him on frequent excursions to forests.

“Contrary to common perception, animals don’t harm humans. As a child, I was travelling from Cuttack to Rourkela by road with my family. As we halted midway for a tea break near Raerakhol forest, a huge sloth bear with her cubs piggybacking on her was crossing the road. But, it didn’t attack us and moved away silently,” he remembered.

Passion with purpose

Safari Monks isn’t only about tourism. Through this initiative, Abhilash and his friends want to spread the message of wildlife conservation. And, the challenges are plenty! “Sometimes, we get clients who don’t understand the nuances of conventional family vacation and a wildlife safari holiday. You can’t play loud music or have loud conversations. There are strict rules to follow. As a skipper, it is my responsibility to make people aware of the rules of the jungle and spread awareness about conserving wildlife,” said Abhilash.

OB Bureau

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